Global South development picks up pace

China's role of 'long-standing partner' for 3 decades lauded by UNOSSC director

When the UN Office for South-South Cooperation, or UNOSSC, talked about its cooperation with China stretching nearly three decades, the director of the office called China "a long-standing partner".

"The role is very evident, very prominent. And with the longstanding partnership that we have with them, we have been able to advance on key global projects," Dima Al-Khatib, director of UNOSSC, told China Daily in a recent interview.

The concept of South-South cooperation is for developing countries to learn from each other, she said. The volume of trade between developing countries has soared over the years to $5.3 trillion in 2021, higher than that between developing and developed countries, according to the UN.

China is classified as a developing country, according to a UN report "World Economic Situation and Prospects 2023" released in February, based on data collected by the Economic and Social Affairs Department of the UN Secretariat.

China has been collaborating with the UNOSSC since 1996, said Al-Khatib, as she introduced some key flagship programs and initiatives between China and the UNOSSC, which was established in 1974.

A pilot project set up in Cote d'Ivoire in 2021 has "showcased the China-Africa Rice Value Chain", and "connected research institutions, smallholder farmers and private sectors from China and Africa", said Al-Khatib.

China is also providing training and capacity-building for other developing countries, which started last year in March through a course on South-South cooperation and cross-border e-commerce for poverty eradication, and global sustainable development, according to Al-Khatib.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the global economic crisis have created a range of challenges for developing countries, including issues related to food security, trade, livelihood, and the digital divide.

"There is a need to address key issues such as economic issues, debt relief, support to MSEs (micro and small enterprises), support for women's economic empowerment, and working with cities on different urban issues," said Al-Khatib, emphasizing that the international community needs to see how to address the challenges through South-South cooperation and different partnerships.

Key contributor

China has been the key contributor and main partner of the UN Fund for South-South Cooperation, which enables the UNOSSC to implement many projects for developing countries.

Meanwhile, the Global Development Initiative, or GDI, put forward by China in September 2021, "has been doing phenomenal work," Al-Khatib said. "There is an extreme interest by member states and countries and by us as Office for South-South Cooperation to further partner and collaborate with China on this."

Based on China's own development experience, the GDI aims at "promoting common development and building a shared future", Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the UN, said at a briefing of the Group of Friends of the GDI in April.

"China will continue to play its role as an engine of the world economy. China will continue to share its development experience with other countries. China will continue to provide more public goods to the international community," Zhang said.

In January 2022, the Group of Friends of the GDI was officially established, and its membership has now reached nearly 70 countries.

"From the approach of collaboration and the nature of the projects that are being supported through the GDI, I do expect that there will be a lot of positive impacts and a lot of best practices that can benefit the direct beneficiaries," Al-Khatib said. She said the UNOSSC will soon be approaching the GDI for some collaboration.